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THE SITUATION ROOM

Iraq's Interior Ministry Says Most People Kidnapped in Baghdad Today Were Freed; Rights Group Seeks War Crime Charges Against Donald Rumsfeld; Fight For Majority Leader's Job Getting Ugly; Trent Lott Trying To Make Leadership Comeback; Senate Democrats Give Joe Lieberman Standing Ovation; President Bush Promises To Raise U.S. Auto Concerns On Asian Tour; Evan Bayh Interview

Aired November 14, 2006 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, it's 3:00 a.m. in Baghdad, bold and brazen and carried out in broad daylight, a carefully choreographed mass kidnapping right under the noses of U.S. and Iraqi troops. There are new developments happening right now.

It's 7:00 p.m. here in Washington where there are power plays in both parties for leadership roles in the new Congress. One race revisits a long-ago scandal, another involves a comeback kid.

And Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton are already front runners in the long race for the White House. It's 7:00 p.m. in New York where their home state just can't wait for 2008.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Dozens of gunmen in police uniforms, dozens of victims from Iraq's academic elite. A mass kidnapping in a Baghdad research facility sends shock waves of fear through a war weary capital. Now as suddenly it happened, just as suddenly, repeat, may be over for many, many of those victims.

CNN's Michael Ware is on the ground in Baghdad, but let's begin our coverage this hour with our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, reports coming from our people in Baghdad that most if not all of the people taken hostage today may have been released. But that doesn't negate the fact that this incident raises real questions about who is in charge of the Iraqi police.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice-over): It was an audacious daylight attack. Gunmen dressed as Iraqi police arrived at the higher education ministry building in central Baghdad, claiming to have a list of people wanted on corruption charges. After separating the women, virtually all the men were taken away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

MCINTYRE: They kidnapped deputy director generals, all employees, assistants and cleaners leaving nobody behind, says Ala Maqi (ph), an Iraqi Parliament member. It's unclear if the kidnappers were Iraqi police, members of the Shia militia operating within the police or criminals posing as police. But the effect was the same, to further intimidate an already terrorized populous.

COL. DOUGLAS MACGREGOR, U.S. ARMY (RET.): This is a complete breakdown in order in Baghdad. This is the antithesis of what we said we wanted to achieve in that city when we began operations in August. So we have failed miserably to impose any degree of order whatsoever on Baghdad.

MCINTYRE: Initial reports suggested up to 150 Iraqis have been abducted, which would make this the largest mass kidnapping of the war. But later Iraqi officials suggested perhaps only 50 people were being held hostage. In Iraq kidnappings are common, but most are criminal money making enterprises aimed solely at getting a ransom.

TAQI AL-MUSAWI, PRES., AL-MUSTANSIRIYA UNIV.: Of course these events happen most of the time in Iraq and we don't sound surprised about this event.

MCINTYRE: In this case some witnesses said the gunmen seemed to be focusing on minority Sunnis, suggesting the attack bore the hallmark of Shia militia men working as or with help from Iraqi police. And the kidnappers appear to have fled in pickup trucks in the direction of Sadr City, a Shia militia stronghold.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: By day's end it appeared that most, if not all of the kidnapped men had been released. Meanwhile, a local police commander and other top police officials are being questioned about what they know about how this happened and whether or not there was any inside help -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie, thank you for that.

The stunning kidnapping raid has certainly captured the attention of everyone in Iraq, but what message is it sending?

And joining us now our correspondent in Baghdad Michael Ware. Let's take a look at the bigger picture here, this incident today, Michael, what does it say about the Iraqi government of the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I mean it's been an absolutely remarkable affair surrounding this mass kidnapping. And in many ways, hopefully in the washout in the days to come, we might be able to learn quite a lot about Prime Minister Maliki and his government. I mean firstly the question is who is responsible for this? I mean clearly there was a degree of organization, sophistication to suggest that there has to be some kind of paramilitary involvement here. Now whether that's Sunni insurgent or whether that's Shia or whether that's government related is yet to be seen.

Also, what has led to this? I mean was this a rouge Shia militia or was this a hard-line element or was this a faction within the government or was this a stunt to begin with? I mean there's so many questions yet to be answered or indeed, is this a case of the prime minister cracking down on the militias within the ranks of his own administration?

We saw this afternoon that a number of police officers responsible for the area where the kidnapping took place called in for interrogation and then later, their hostages were released. Perhaps this is a sign of the prime minister finally flexing some muscle. We just don't yet know, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Michael, but it does show also though is that this major U.S. military effort to secure the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, which has been going on now for weeks, still has a lot left to be done.

WARE: Wolf, I mean even the military themselves admit that this thing has all but stalled, I mean if not in serious need of major overhaul. I mean just look at the last two days. Total of 86 bullet riddled bodies have been found in the mornings on the streets of Baghdad alone.

Clearly the sectarian violence continues at pace. We had at least two car bombings in the capital today. That doesn't include the rest of the country. So no, the battle for Baghdad, as it was so- called the great operation to has not achieved even the veneer of stability that it was hoping to let alone attack the fundamental problem, which are the militias that are building blocks of this government -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michael, thank you. Michael Ware reporting from Baghdad.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: A U.S. civil rights today filed suit in Germany seeking war crimes charges against the outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other American officials. Ready to testimony, a former U.S. Army commander. Let's get the story from CNN's Brian Todd -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one legal expert believes this is more about politics than law, but this action does bring back images of some of the more difficult moments of Donald Rumsfeld's tenure.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Not content with his political demise, some of Donald Rumsfeld's antagonists want him to pay a legal price.

VINCENT WARREN, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Whether Donald Rumsfeld will ultimately go to jail or not, I don't know. But he should be ashamed for the rest of his life.

TODD: The Center for Constitutional Rights, which calls itself a progressive human rights group, is asking a German federal prosecutor to investigate Rumsfeld and nearly a dozen other U.S. civilian and military officials for war crimes. The group says it has uncovered new evidence that Rumsfeld was one of the so-called architects of torture programs targeting detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That includes torture provisions like using dogs, religious persecution, religious humiliation, sexual humiliation, temperature change, sleep deprivation and things like that.

TODD: Offering testimony, former Army General Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of U.S. prisons in Iraq, now relieved of that command and demoted to colonel in the wake of Abu Ghraib. She was with the leader of the Center for Constitutional Rights in Germany when the papers were filed and still says she knew nothing about the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI, U.S. ARMY (RET.): To me this is just yet one more opportunity now in the international environment for people to hear the story from a first-hand account.

TODD: A spokeswoman in Rumsfeld's office says the U.S. government does not condone torture. She says the Pentagon is reviewing the documents in this case, but has no reason to believe this complaint has merit. From Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, quote, "It's interesting to me that nobody kind of looks at it from the other side in contrasting the way in which the enemy handles individuals and respect for people."

As for why Germany would consider trying a case, legal experts say Germany has sweeping criminal laws making the party's nationality or location of an alleged offense immaterial. They say it's almost certain the U.S. will not play along.

SCOTT SILLIMAN, DUKE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: So my guess is the United States will look at this, take interest in it, but handle it politically and not do anything to try to yield to the German courts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a similar complaint two years ago that was dismissed by a German court and legal experts say they doubt the German government will allow this case to go very far -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting. Thank, you Brian, for that.

Many Republicans are relieved that President Bush has finally cut Donald Rumsfeld loose as defense secretary, but after the GOP got thumped in the midterm election, some think Mr. Bush's timing could have been a whole lot better.

The current Republican Whip, Roy Blunt, was in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Looking back, should the president have asked Rumsfeld to leave before the election? Would that have made a difference?

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MAJORITY WHIP: I think if the president was going to make that change, it would have been helpful to make it earlier. He's a good friend of mine. I know it's a hard job to be president. You have got a lot of decisions you're trying to make all the time.

I do think it would have been helpful to make this one earlier because all of our candidates then would have been able to say with more certainty and people would have believed with more certainty that we're looking constantly at how we can improve. We're reviewing these policies. We're not stuck in the status quo in any way in Iraq. And that decision is proof of that. Unfortunately we didn't have that to say, but you know it's a tough job and...

BLITZER: Have you expressed that irritation to the White House?

BLUNT: I've expressed that concern and the irritation that the members would have and I think they expected that. Now you'll have to ask them more than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is joining us now live from New York. Roy Blunt, he was pretty blunt, if you'll forgive the...

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's just awful.

BLITZER: ... pun, whatever it was...

(LAUGHTER)

CAFFERTY: That's terrible.

BLITZER: He was blunt. He said he complained to the White House that if they were going to get rid of Rumsfeld they should have done it a few weeks ago. It might have saved the majority and the Senate could have picked up a few Republican seats in the House.

CAFFERTY: And that was blunt.

BLITZER: That was blunt talk.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it was. Never let it be said that American politicians are not opportunistic, especially when it comes to their own welfare. They're still counting votes in at least nine congressional races and already some presidential hopefuls are testing the waters for '08. Republican former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has formed an exploratory committee. So has Congressman Duncan Hunter.

Senator John McCain says he's going to launch his next week. Other members of the GOP rumored to be interested in the nation's highest office, Newt Gingrich, Senator Bill Frist. Over on the Democratic side there's old what's her name along with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Senators Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry and Evan Bayh and Al Gore is a possibility as well.

Here's the question. Who do you want to run in the 2008 presidential election? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

And still to come, I will ask Evan Bayh about a possible White House run and what Democrats plan to do to try to fix the war in Iraq -- Senator Evan Bayh joining us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM in a few moments.

Also, he lost his leadership post after a very controversial remark four years ago. Now Republican Senator Trent Lott may be poised to make a huge comeback. We'll have details.

And flashbacks in Florida of the election debacle in 2000, a key race there still undecided tonight. We're going to go live to Sarasota.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The fight for the majority leader's job in the new Democratic controlled House is getting ugly. Congressman John Murtha today is blasting what he calls swift boat style attacks stemming from his fight with Steny Hoyer. A watchdog group has raised serious questions about Murtha's ethics record including allegations linked to the 1980 Abscam bribery scandal.

Murtha was never charged and he calls the allegations unfounded. Meantime, Murtha is taking aim at Hoyer, accusing him of siding with President Bush on Iraq, which Hoyer's camp denies. Murtha has the backing of House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi.

The leadership vote is scheduled Thursday. On the Senate side it was smooth sailing today as Democrats elected their leaders, including Harry Reid in the top job and Dick Durbin in the number two post. Senate Republicans are bracing for a leadership showdown tomorrow and it could mark the comeback of a man who once was pushed out of the Senate's top job.

Let's go to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is all but certain to be elected as minority leader tomorrow morning in the Republican leadership election, but the post of minority whip, the person who would be McConnell's number two, is up for grabs and a familiar face is trying to seize it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Behind this door inside this office Republican Senator Trent Lott is working the phones, plotting a comeback. Four years after his own GOP colleagues forced him out as majority leader, he's running to become the number two Republican in the Senate. In 2002, Lott was pushed aside for comments seen as racially insensitive, praising the late Strom Thurmond, a former segregationist.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of him.

(APPLAUSE)

LOTT: And if the rest of our country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either.

BASH: Lott's fate was sealed by the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country.

BASH: Since then, Lott has toiled with the rank and file, looking out for his home state of Mississippi and lobbying an occasional lob (ph), like here at GOP supporters of lobbying reform.

LOTT: Some of it is outrageous. I mean now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks. Where are you going, McDonald's.

BASH: Now Lott wants back in the Republican leadership and he's making the case to colleagues that he can help redirect a party that has lost its way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would make a mistake if we didn't use his experience in the leadership of the Republican Party.

BASH: Lott supporters like Senator Richard Burr say what's past is past and the new GOP minority needs someone like Lott who knows how to out maneuver Democrats.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We want to get things done. We want to have legislative accomplishments and I believe that Senator Lott can certainly help to guide us in that path.

BASH: Lott's spokeswoman says he's closing in on victory, but he's up against Tennessee's Lamar Alexander who has been working it for months and insists he's going to win.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: I think our Republican Party after the drumming we took needs first unified leadership and second, we need some new faces and some fresh thinking, and I hope that's what I offer the caucus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And Wolf this race is really neck and neck. I just saw Senator Lott walking down the hall, working a colleague. It looked like working a colleague for a vote. I spoke with another GOP senator who talked to Senator Lott on the Senate floor just a short while ago who said earlier today he thought he had the votes, now he's not so sure.

But the bottom line is in this vote tomorrow morning it will be a secret ballot so no matter what commitments or promises either of these candidates have, any of the senators could vote for either of them and no one will know in the end -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wouldn't be the first time. Thanks very much, Dana, for that. Dana Bash, part of the best political team on television.

And one other note from Capitol Hill today, Senate Democrats gave Joe Lieberman a standing ovation during a closed-door meeting. Lieberman bolted the Democratic Party this summer after losing a primary election. He won reelection in Connecticut as an Independent but now calls himself an Independent Democrat -- Democrats standing in applause for Joe Lieberman.

Remember for the latest political news at any time, check out the CNN political ticker. Easy way to do it, go to CNN.com/Ticker.

Coming up, he's a former governor and a current senator, does Evan Bayh want to add the title Mr. President to his resume? I'll ask him when he joins us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, remember this? It's back. We're going to go live to Florida where another election recount is under way.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Carol Costello for a quick look at some other important stories making news tonight -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf and hello to all of you.

President Bush leaves in just a couple of hours for an Asian economic summit and he's promising to raise concerns of U.S. automakers with trade partners there. Mr. Bush met at the White House today with the heads of the three major U.S. car companies. They say they're pleased with the talks but they did not get any firm pledge of help.

Iran's president says he expects his country's uranium enrichment program to be able to meet the nation's nuclear fuel needs by February. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also says Iran is quote, "committed to nuclear regulations." That despite the fact Iran ignored United Nations deadline to stop enriching uranium. Mr. Ahmadinejad insists Iran's nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Just in time for the holidays, flight attendants for the Delta subsidiary Comair are signing off on a seven and a half percent pay cut. They're approving that and other concessions in an effort to help the airline emerge from bankruptcy. The deal still has to be approved by a judge.

And the Marine Reserves famous "Toys for Tots" campaign is doing an about-face. It's now agreeing to accept an offer of 4,000 Bible- talking dolls from a California company. The dolls are of Jesus and other biblical figures and they quote the Bible when activated. "Toys for Tots" initially rejected the offer, saying it was concerned about matching religious toys with children of the same faith. But Wolf, on Christmas, I think they probably made the right decision and changed their mind.

BLITZER: All right, we'll watch this story together with you, Carol. Thanks very much.

And just ahead, his party is blue, but his state is red although a little bit less red than it used to be. Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, I'll ask him what he thinks should happen in Iraq and I'll also ask him how close he is to deciding on a White House run.

And they're two tough New Yorkers. That would be Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. Imagine the tough words they'd exchange in a presidential race. Some people already are.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information arriving all the time. Happening now, bold and brazen body snatchings in Baghdad -- gunmen snatched dozens of people from an education ministry building. We've just learned though that Iraq's interior ministry says most of those kidnapped have been freed. The ministry of interior insists no one was killed or tortured. We're watching this story closely though.

Also, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair talked to the U.S. group looking for ways to fix Iraq via a secure video link. According to Mr. Blair's spokesman, the prime minister told the Iraq study group Iraq's security force must rid itself of sectarianism.

And get this, in a CIA leak case, this just coming in, the vice president, Dick Cheney asking a federal court to dismiss the civil lawsuit filed by former Ambassador Joe Wilson and his wife, outed CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby and the U.S. government are joining Cheney in the request.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. More now on that rather audacious abduction today in Baghdad carried out by gunmen dressed like Iraqi police. Our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre once again with the latest information we're just getting -- Jamie.

MCINTYRE: Well, Wolf, a surprising end to what began as a shocking day. It appears that most if not all of the men who were kidnapped from that Iraqi ministry earlier today have been freed. We are -- we don't have a final report on exactly every single person is accounted for, but it does appear that that's the case.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi ministry is questioning the local police commander and other top police officials about who may have ordered this kidnapping and whether or not they had any inside help. At this point, it appears that it was done by Shia militia who might have been working from inside the Iraqi police force -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I just want to caution our viewers, this information about everyone being released coming from the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, which is riddled with Shiite supporters of various militias and death squads, so we're going to be very, very precise and careful in checking this out and getting some other independent sources, Jamie, as well, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior making those suggestion in the information we're just getting.

And they haven't taken control of Congress just yet, but with the power shift on Capitol Hill, Democrats are starting to flex their muscles. At the top of their agenda, Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. He's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D-IN), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Listen to what Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who's going to be the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said yesterday about U.S. troops withdrawals from Iraq.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CMTE. Most Democrats share the view that we should pressure the White House to commence the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq in four to six months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are you on the same page with Senator Levin to begin that phased redeployment within four to six months? BAYH: Wolf, I think we need to be very direct with the Iraqis and put the pressure right on them and say look, this is your country. Only you can resolve the problems that are tearing you apart. And to date, you've simply not demonstrated either the capacity or the will to do that.

And so we are not going to stay in your country forever. We're going to begin to withdraw our troops. Now, the timing of that will depend on you, and if you get your act together and show some promise of being able to stabilize your country, we'll give you some more time to do that.

But if you simply are unable or unwilling to make the choices that only you can make, there's no hope for this situation and we'll leave sooner rather than later. So I do believe we need to tell them, we're not staying forever, and that if they don't get their act together, we're going to withdraw, sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: But this timetable that Senator Levin laid out, start commencing, start to withdraw within the next four to six months, is that as -- do you want to be as specific as Senator Levin, in other words?

BAYH: Well, to begin it in the next four to six months to show them that we're serious, that we mean business that they've got to get their act together and focus on getting the job done, yes, absolutely. How long it will take to completely redeploy our troops I think is going to be more dependent upon events on the ground. And hopefully, they'll begin to do better and show that the capacity and the will to try and stabilize their country.

But, you know, General Abizaid, all the commanders, Wolf, will tell you there is no purely military solution to this. What is driving the insurgency in Iraq today are unresolved political disputes among Iraqis.

And no matter how long we stay, no matter how many Americans die, no matter how much money we spend, this will not have a happy outcome unless they do their part. And they're simply not doing that now. So I think a real wake-up call to them, letting them know we're not there forever and to show them we mean business to begin that process, yes, I think that's in order.

BLITZER: It seems that everyone agrees the situation in Iraq is getting worse by the day. The violence, the horrendous reports that we're hearing all the time. Earlier this year in June, June of 2006, you were among those Democrats who voted against a resolution that would have had a redeployment by the end of July 2007.

A lot has happened over the past six months. Does this election, the Democrats winning in the Senate and the House, give you the kind of strength, the cover you need to push forward a more assertive U.S. policy towards Iraq?

BAYH: Yes, it does, Wolf. And first, you say that everyone says that things aren't going as well as they should in Iraq. I'm reminded of something that the president said just weeks ago when he said, I think this is a direct quote, that we are winning in Iraq. You know, hopefully with a new secretary of defense we'll get a greater sense of realism about events on the ground.

And hopefully, now we will be able to do our part to convince the administration that to strengthen our country to meet more important security threats to the United States, we need to begin the process of bringing closure to Iraq.

BLITZER: I've spoken over the past few days with some high- ranking officials in the administration, in the Pentagon, military and civilian who said to me they're relieved that Donald Rumsfeld is leaving because they feel that now there can be some changes.

As long as he was there, he was such a powerful influence there, people were really afraid to come up with new ideas. And now with a new defense secretary coming in, they might be able to have the wherewithal, if you will, to change course. I assume you agree with that?

BAYH: Wolf, I agree wholeheartedly with that. I mean look, to err is human. But to persist in err, to refuse to acknowledge err or correct it, particularly when lives are at stake, that is a great human failing. And so there was just no willingness to reexamine the facts, to contemplate different courses of action.

And so I hope that we'll have greater flexibility for the purpose of maximizing the security of our country and bringing our presence in Iraq to some sort of an acceptable closure. And we look to Secretary Designate Gates for his thoughts, also to the Baker and the Hamilton Commission to see what ideas they may have. I think we need to put it all on the table and see what makes sense at this juncture.

But it all has to begin with two things, Wolf: number one, the Iraqis doing what only they can do; and number two, an understanding by us that Iraq is important but it is not the central front in the war on terror.

And in fact, it is weakening us in dealing with Iran and Afghanistan and other things more closely associated with our security and combating global terror. That's why we need to being the process of bringing closure to Iraq.

BLITZER: Senator, we're almost out of time. But a few political questions before I let you go. When are you going to announce the creation of an exploratory committee for a run for the White House?

BAYH: Will you forgive me if it's not today?

BLITZER: Yes, I'll forgive you. But is it going to be in the next few days, the next few weeks? I assume that that's important to start raising some money to begin to explore whether or not you really want to do this?

BAYH: Well there are those practical things to consider, Wolf. And it's possible at some time before the end of the year we'll have an exploratory committee to do some of the things that only an exploratory committee can do. But I wouldn't look to make a final decision or some sort of formal announcement until after the holidays.

You're interested in this, I'm interested in this, some of your viewers are, my guess is that a majority of Americans would like a little rest from politics for the time being.

BLITZER: Do you want to tell us what you bring to the table if in fact you decide you want to run for president?

BAYH: Well, I'm a successful two-term governor with national security experience who has won five times in a red state, with a proven track record of uniting Democrats, Independents and Republicans to move my state and perhaps our country forward.

BLITZER: Is Hillary Clinton, your colleague from New York State, too polarizing to be elected president from a Democrat's perspective?

BAYH: No, and I should make clear that I like Mrs. Clinton. But the question is, who maximizes our chances of being successful. Of course, she can win, but the question is who gives us the best chance.

BLITZER: And you're suggesting it would be you?

BAYH: No, I'm not. Perhaps that's a discussion for another day.

BLITZER: Senator Bayh, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck to you.

BAYH: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And up ahead tonight, some are calling it deja vu in Florida. It involves a recount, a disputed race and -- get this -- Katherine Harris, who was at the center of the 2000 recount between George Bush and Al Gore. Susan Candiotti is standing by to explain what is going on.

And some say it would be a clash of the titans: Rudy Giuliani versus Hillary Clinton. For many, if would be a dream race. We're watching. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Exactly one week after election day, some House candidates -- get this -- are still holding their breathes, waiting to see what happens. We know the Democratic majority will hold at least 230 seats in the next Congress. Republicans will hold at least 196 seats in the House.

But nine races right now remain undecided. One of them is in Florida's 13th Congressional Direct. A recount is under way right now for the seat now held by Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris, who's leaving. She made a name for her in the mother of all recounts, the disputed 2000 presidential vote in Florida. Our national correspondent Susan Candiotti is standing by live in Sarasota with the latest -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

With less than 400 votes separating Republican Vern Buchanan from Democrat Christine Jennings, right now, Buchanan is still in the lead. Just about a half-hour ago, the first stage of this recount, an automatic recount, did not change election night numbers.

And that's to no one's surprise, because when you look at an electronic machine, it just spits out exactly what you put into it. So it doesn't explain still at this hour why 18,000 people in one county did not vote in one race.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Barbara and Ken Sanderson cast their ballots on different days during early voting.

BARBARA SANDERSON, FLORIDA VOTER: I voted for Christine Jennings and when the review ballot came up, there was no X next to her name.

CANDIOTTI: Both say electronic touch screen machines did not record their votes for a U.S. Congressional seat.

KEN SANDERSON, FLORIDA VOTER: I know I pressed that button.

CANDIOTTI: Both caught the mistake in time and reported it, but wonder how many others didn't.

K. SANDERSON: It's kind of startling and I'm upset about it and angry.

CANDIOTTI: So is Democrat Christine Jennings campaign. Unofficially, she lost the election by under 380 votes, less than a quarter of one percent.

CHRISTINE JENNINGS (D), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The recount will show that I'm going to be the congresswoman for district 13.

CANDIOTTI: Not so fast says her Republican opponent. Vern Buchanan says he's the winner fair and square.

VERN BUCHANAN (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We won it on election night and that process needs to play itself out this week.

CANDIOTTI: A required recount is trying to nail down why 18,000 people who did cast their ballots in Sarasota County did not vote in the Jennings/Buchanan race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 205 for Buchanan, 205 for Jennings and 140 under votes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 157 under votes. CANDIOTTI: 18,000 under votes. Experts say that's at least 10 times higher than normal. After 2000's hanging chad debacle, Democrats again are crying foul.

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It defies reason that we're back in a critically important election with a submicroscopic margin and a system that went wrong, once again.

CANDIOTTI: And who's seat is the prize? Katherine Harris', who Democrats blame for 2000's mess.

KATHY DENT, ELECTION SUPERVISOR: It does give you a little bit of the deja vu.

CANDIOTTI: Sarasota election officials defend their electronic machines.

DENT: We'll see it through until the very end.

CANDIOTTI: Stand by the machines?

DENT: Yes, unless proven differently.

CANDIOTTI: For now, you'll find congressional hopefuls Buchanan and Jennings both posing with incoming freshmen. Each invited, yet keeping their distance, wondering who gets to stay.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI: So the next step is a manual recount, and that will be followed by an audit. The court has ordered both sides to figure out how to best work that out, at which time they will try to recreate that undervote. So we're not expecting results any time soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan, thank you.

And there are some more cliffhangers we're watching right now. This is the final scheduled day of a recount in Connecticut's Second Congressional District.

At last word, incumbent Republican Rob Simmons was trailing Democratic challenger Joe Courtney by fewer than 100 votes.

In Ohio Congresswoman Deborah Pryce, a member of the Republican leadership, has a 3,500 vote lead over Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy, but more than 18,000 provisional and absentee ballots have yet to be counted.

Another GOP incumbent in Ohio, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt also has a narrow lead over her Democratic challenger, Victoria Wilson (ph). But Wilson is refusing to concede until the final totals, including absentee and provisional votes, are in.

And this hour, one outstanding House race finally has been decided. That would be Washington state's Eighth Direct. Republican Congressman David Reichert's victory was sealed today when his Democratic challenger, Darcy Burner, conceded.

Just ahead, a political blast from the past that could be revived in '08. Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani are possibly facing off in the race for the White House.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: For a preview if what could be one of the hottest presidential races in 2008, you need only look back to 2000.

CNN's Mary Snow is joining us live from New York -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, with Rudy Giuliani now officially testing the waters for 2008, and Senator Clinton indicating she's thinking about running, it's sparking lots of anticipation about a potential match up between the two New Yorkers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Senator Hillary Clinton versus Rudy Giuliani in 2008, one reporter who has covered them calls it a clash of the titans.

MIKE TOMASKY, AMERICAN PROSPECT ED. AT LARGE: It should to be great to finish the thing that we started but never finished in New York in 1999 and 2000, when Giuliani of course was the candidate for senate and dropped out in May of 2000.

SNOW: At the time, Giuliani, the Republican mayor of a largely Democratic city, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: This is not the right time for me to run for office.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I called him at the conclusion of his announcement to wish him well.

SNOW: Flash forward six years, both are considered rock stars of their respective parties. Rudy Giuliani has risen to the ranks as America's mayor following September 11th. Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton has won her second senate term by a landslide.

WAYNE BARRETT, SR. EDITOR, THE VILLAGE VOICE: The first female candidate for president with such a hard-nose prosecutorial type, there's a kind of confrontational scene that we all anticipate. People salivate for that.

SNOW: When they first ran against each other in 2000, it didn't take long before the gloves came off.

GIULIANI: I'm not from Arkansas or Illinois. I was born in New York.

SNOW: Clinton fired back at a GOP fundraising letter that suggested she was hostile towards America's religious traditions.

CLINTON: It is outrageous that the mayor has injected religion into this race

SNOW: Was this just the opening act to the political drama of 2008? While the match up is eagerly anticipated, some say it may not last longer than a New York minute.

TOMASKY: I think that Giuliani has a very tough time getting through the Republican primary process because of some things in his record as New York mayor. And I don't think that Hillary Clinton has a lock on the Democratic nomination either.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And a recent CNN poll pits Giuliani and Clinton in a dead heat in a hypothetical matchup -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting. Thank you, from Mary Snow. Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Question this hour is who do you want to run in the 2008 presidential election? Mary Ann from Indiana writes: Barack Obama/John Edwards. Just what the country needs, young senators, fresh senators who would put the middle class first, bring dignity back to the White House."

Des in Tucson, Arizona: "My vote would be for Colin Powell or Condi Rice. Maybe both. Unfortunately, we seem to dump the brightest, most intelligent for the same old politicians."

Chris in Tampa, Florida: "Al Gore. He was already elected president."

Greg in New Jersey: "Who should run: Anybody but Giuliani, McCain, Clinton, Hunter, Biden, Kerry, Gore or anyone else you mentioned. What we need is someone to run the country who is out of the mainstream political garbage can."

Dan in California: "Jack, I'm a political junkie. I don't care about 2008 yet. We just finished what seemed like an eternal election cycle. Can't CNN find something else to report on for now?"

Bobby in California: "I would vote for you if you ran as anything but either of the two parties we have now. It would be like Emmett Kelly as president, but better than the clowns we have to choose from. So run, man, run."

And Chuck in Florida writes: "I want Abraham Lincoln to run in 2008 because by that time G.W. Bush will have created a whole new generation of slaves out of what was once known as the middle class."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We have posted more of them online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you. See you tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's find out what's coming up at the top of hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Thanks. Among tonight's top stories, we will go in-depth on whether it's time for the U.S. and Iran to talk.

Our top story in crime tonight: Two parents on trial for putting their adopted children in cages. They claim it was for the children's own safety. And we have some amazing pictures for tonight's top story in science. Scientists actually built a real house on a shaking platform to see what happens during an earthquake, a big one. I saw the pictures, and I have been through a bunch of earthquakes. It's terrifying to watch, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching with you, Paula. Thank you very much.

And coming up next, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, presidential doodles. Our own Jeanne Moos puts pen to paper for all of us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at some of the hot shots, pictures coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

On Capitol Hill, female senators from both parties gather for a workshop.

In London, Queen Elizabeth II meets the new James Bond, actor Daniel Craig, at the premiere of the new 007 movie, "Casino Royale."

In Oklahoma City, drive-through flu shots are administered in a parking lot. I'm getting a flu shot tomorrow.

And in Little Rock, Arkansas, a five-year-old girl watches a nine-year-old penguin at the zoo. Some of today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words.

Some of history's most important papers have come from the desk of the president of the United States. Then, there are those doodles. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You see them signing bills and signing autographs, but rarely do you get to see a president doodling.

DAVID GREENBERG, CO-AUTHOR, PRESIDENTIAL DOODLES: Is it a person with horns? Is it a mutant cat or rabbit?

MOOS (on camera): It's the devil cat. (voice-over): It is a doodle by LBJ.

GREENBERG: There's a kind of a whip there.

MOOS (on camera): Where is the whip?

GREENBERG: Well, I see it as a whip.

MOOS (voice-over): Whatever it is, President Eisenhower doodled it.

"Presidential Doodles" is a collection of scribblings, from George Washington's filled-in alternating squares to FDR's fish and ships.

The most recent presidents, Clinton and Bush, wouldn't hand over any doodles.

GREENBERG: Even a doodle might in some ways subvert the public image.

MOOS: But at least JFK left us words in boxes and sailboats.

This was what he was doodling during the Cuban missile crisis.

GREENBERG: Blockade Cuba. It's like he's reminding himself to pick up his dry cleaning.

MOOS: You could actually dry clean these doodles: Herbert Hoover's intricate geometric designs ended up on a line of children's clothing.

So how do doodlers in chief stack up?

GREENBERG: Benjamin Harrison, not a great president, but a great doodler.

Reagan is a terrific doodler.

MOOS: He once considered becoming a cartoonist, though he had a much-analyzed habit of leaving off the ends of limbs. Ironically, when you consider the part he played as an amputee in "King's Row."

RONALD REAGAN: Where's the rest of me?

MOOS: All of him seemed crazy about Nancy. Check out his love doodles.

GREENBERG: It says, "There I was doodling away -- then I began to think about you, so."

MOOS: It gets mushier.

GREENBERG: My cuddly, waddly, little pink honey pot.

MOOS: And reaches a crescendo with... GREENBERG: "Dear Mommy, Poo Pants, First Lady Nancy," and signed, "I love you Pappa Poo Pants, First Guy.

MOOS: Speaking of bathroom talk, this is the closest thing to a doodle the authors could get from President Bush. It was at the U.N. when a photographer captured a note he slipped to Condi Rice, saying, "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?"

GREENBERG: Here's a guy who said we didn't need a permission slip from the U.N. to go to war. But he did need a permission slip at the U.N. to go to the bathroom.

MOOS: Beware of over-analyzing doodles. When Tony Blair left an economic summit, reporters pounced on doodles he'd apparently left behind. Experts analyzed the prime minister's scribblings. "Chaotic script," "aggressive," "unstable," "death wish."

Turns out the doodles were done by Bill Gates.

And finally, the saddest doodle.

GREENBERG: It's hard to find a doodle that's moving, but this one is.

MOOS: Penned by JFK the night before his assassination, this doodle suggests JFK longed to be in a sailboat rather than a motorcade.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And remember, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM weekdays 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, also back live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Tomorrow, among my guests tomorrow, by the way, Michael Steele. He lost a tough Senate election in Maryland, but he's still popular among so many Republicans.

Also, Senator Carl Levin. He is a key member of the Armed Services Committee. In fact, he is about to become the new chairman.

Until tomorrow, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Let's go to Paula Zahn. She's standing by in New York -- Paula.

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